Many Americans believe that union violence is a thing from a long-ago era in labor relations. Sadly, on Labor Day 2013, they would be wrong.
Even now, union officials and their cohorts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania are executing a prolonged campaign of intimidation, harassment, and even violence against construction firms and their workers who refuse to toe the union line.
The city’s construction trade unions targeted brother developers Matt and Mike Pestronk, who founded Post Brothers Construction, when they started converting an old factory building into an apartment complex.
After construction began, Philadelphia Building Trades Union militants planted nail “bombs” — nails welded together in a ball — to puncture tires of vehicles driving to and from the company site, pouring oil in front of the loading dock, blocking site deliveries, and shoving security guards simply because the Pestronk brothers hired non-union workers.
Worse, union thugs stalked the brothers’ wives and female employees, disseminated sexually suggestive materials and threats aimed at the brothers’ wives, and physically assaulted a nonmember construction engineer when he arrived at the work site.
The reports of vandalism, threats, and violence systematically targeted at Philadelphia construction employees and companies who wish to remain union-free are not anomalies. And sadly, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, workers and job providers targeted by union violence may have little recourse.
You see, a divided court held in its controversial 1973 United States v. Enmons ruling that violence and property damage done to advance “legitimate union objectives” are exempt from the Hobbs Act, a 1946 federal law that prohibited the obstruction of commerce via robbery, extortion, and violence.
In Enmons, the court ruled that striking union operatives who fired high-powered rifles at three company transformers, drained the oil from another company transformer, and blew up an entire company transformer substation were immune from federal prosecution. If these union thugs had been anyone else, they would have been subjected to prosecution under the Hobbs Act, but because they were perpetrating these crimes during a union-instigated strike against the company over higher wages, they were immune.
The court’s exemption gives union thugs license to harass, intimidate, and even attack independent-minded workers who are just trying to make a living and provide for their families during a strike.
Local union lawyers recently used the Enmons precedent to defend union thugs in Buffalo, New York who stabbed a construction company owner in the neck, threw scalding hot coffee at nonunion construction workers, caused $330,000 of damage by pouring sand into construction vehicles’ engines, and threatening a company representative that they were going to sexually assault his wife during a prolonged campaign of intimidation targeting nonunion workers and firms. The national AFL-CIO union hierarchy even moved to file a brief citing Enmons as reason not to prosecute the union militants.